One Newberry County resident spoke up about the relocation of a school district administration building Monday night.
Laura Dukes approached the Newberry County School District Board of Education after asking for about five minutes as opposed to the normal three minute limit. Since nobody else spoke up, the board was okay with her going slightly above the limit.
After Dukes assured the board that she is definitely a supporter of the school district and public schools, she said that the district’s decision to build a new administration building further away from downtown is an abuse on urban planning.
Currently, the district administration building is located on Martin Street in downtown Newberry.
Dukes stated that the current decision to relocate away from downtown Newberry is counterproductive to the revitalization of the downtown area.
She references Camden as an illustration and states how people are ushering towards downtown Camden.
She continues by saying how unwise it is to build a new office building when it is more civic to renovate another lot. After all, she says, there are developers across the state who are looking at the downtown area.
Dukes brought up the price tag for the building cost of $2-4 million and called this an unjustified price that ignores countywide planning.
She refers to Newberry College who has shown a commitment to the downtown area.
The college has collaborated with Newberry for events and other projects. For example, the theater department collaborates with the opera house; the city and college have worked together on the welcome back block party two years now they have worked with West Electrical to renovate an old mill turned into student and residential apartments.
Dukes expressed that there is “very little community support for your decision (and) it should be halted until December when it can be re evaluated.”
She questioned where this decision fits in with the community’s interest.
There were community members in the audience who came to hear what Dukes had to say. The community included business owners in and around the downtown area as well as residents.
Dukes does applaud the board and district for being responsible of reducing millage but wants the district to consider the further options for the district building.
In addition to encouraging the board and district to explore the decision regarding the district administration building, she strongly encouraged them to present the findings to the public as well as publicize construction funding.
“Your mission and agenda must be transparent,” Dukes elaborated.
“With the current economic crisis,” Dukes says that it’s important to be “stewards of taxpayers dollars.”
The board made the decision to proceed with building a new district administration building earlier this year in February. The board went back and forth contemplating the pros and cons of renovating an older building or completely building a new one.
The new district building was all a part of the $77 million building renovation plan in which Newberry Elementary and Little Mountain Elementary have been remodeled and Newberry High is currently being renovated.
At the February school board meeting, all members except one, Hugh Gray, voted to move forward with the new building.
Board member Lee Attaway added later on in Monday’s meeting to add the district office building on next month’s agenda so that they may discuss it at September’s regularly scheduled meeting.
The board meets the fourth Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the Learning Center.